I write about motherhood, not because I’m an expert, but to share what I’m learning. Motherhood is like a puzzle: you gather pieces from others- whether what to do or not to do- and move them around until they fit.
Recently I wrote for To Love, Honor, and Vacuum and I was intrigued by some of the comments. Many women said that motherhood is the hardest thing they’ve done. And guess what? It’s the hardest thing I’ve done too. It demands more than you have. It calls for more than you feel like giving, as does fatherhood and marriage and loving others like Jesus. When I said it wasn’t the hardest thing in the world it really struck a dissonant chord. Here’s the thing- it might be the hardest thing I’ve ever done but that doesn’t make it THE hardest thing.
We like to exaggerate our position. Partially because that’s how we feel and partially to make our point. Everyone knows that small children are hard and that’s why people crack so many jokes about it. We feel like motherhood is the hardest of the hard and we should feel sorry for people who work with small children all day (unless they get paid to do it, then it’s a different story). We act as if there is no joy in motherhood.
That attitude is killing us.
It’s no wonder women don’t want to have children. It’s no wonder parents don’t want to raise their children. It’s no wonder that motherhood bogs us down. Because the model we see for it? It’s a killer.
But God didn’t exclude motherhood from His promises. He didn’t say, “I’ll be your helper- unless you’re a mom, then you’re on your own.” He didn’t say, “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (testing)- unless you’re a mom, then you’re out of luck.” He didn’t say, “Rejoice evermore- unless you’re a mom, because motherhood is the pits. Got no help for you there.”
There’s no exclusion of motherhood in joy and we make it sound like there is. Instead He said, “He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord” (Psalm 113:9).
Every time I feel like I’m going to scream because I need to deal with three little people at one time is an opportunity to grow. Motherhood is stretching. And women who aren’t mothers? They have these situations in their lives that don’t involve small children constantly in their business. It’s not just the children.
I’ve seen this in my own life. I had problems and hard days before I had kids. Of course, over the past six years I’ve learned some things that help me keep my sanity in motherhood. I’m not just a mama and it’s foolish to act like I am. That’s a major killjoy in motherhood. But searching for me time or chafing against the constraints of motherhood won’t fix the problem.
Fellow mamas? God has the strength you need. He has the patience. He has the grace. You might not feel it, but you can learn to act it. You can hold your breathe, count to ten mentally, and then speak calmer than you feel. But it’s a process. You won’t grab onto it tomorrow and never lose it again.
You have to remember the purpose. These are God’s children and He gave them to you. It wasn’t a punishment. We all know that the Bible says children are a blessing but do we believe that? Do we believe that when everyone’s sick and we have to give up our plans and other people are doing nice things that don’t involve puke and pulling all-nighters?
There are days when I want to turn in my mom badge. This isn’t what I signed up for. This is miserable. I can’t do this. Plant me on a beach somewhere with a book. That’s ok. We give ourselves too much grief. We can be tired. (That’s not just me, right?) We can need sleep. We can need a break or some help. And when you feel like you can’t say that without being judged you wear this burden around you weren’t made to carry.
I don’t expect my husband to never be tired or need a break. Why should I expect that of myself? Because I love this family? That’s nonsense. I don’t meant that you can afford a babysitter or that your children sleep through the night or that your husband helps you (Although really, why not? The Bible speaks so much about fatherhood.) I mean you can go and ask God for the help you think you need and the strength to make it until you get help. And then you can turn on a tv show, put the kids on the couch with you, and take a thirty minute nap.
God didn’t make us mothers to punish us. Raising up children is hard, important work. Whatever work He has given us should feel beyond us. If it doesn’t, we will try to do it ourselves. We will think we don’t need His help. But when you fall to the bottom? You see the strength and compassion and presence of God in your daily life in a way you never can if life is easy and you coast through it.
Mamas, there’s joy here. But it isn’t in the kids; it’s in Jesus.